Advent ushers us into the prophecies and expectations that surround Christmas. The carols evoke many memories, fragrant and romantic. Isaiah, the Prince of messianic prophecies writes: “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) – meaning “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
The hymn writer, Phillip Brooks (1868), captures the dawn and the tension of the Incarnation, when he writes about Bethlehem, “in thy dark streets shineth/ The everlasting Light/ The hopes and fears of all the years/ Are met in thee tonight.” Elizabeth speaks about her child leaping with joy at the sound of Mary’s voice; Mary herself says her soul rejoices in the Lord, and the angels tell the shepherds about the good news of great joy; while the Magi express unspeakable joy at the sight of the Baby Jesus. Yet, Herod goes on with his murderous command. Talk about the paradox of light and darkness, joy and pain, side by side!
Again, the hopes and fears of all the years in our fallen world stare us in the face: the uncertainties of human structures and the certainty of divine promises. God always comes to change our story. As we look back to the first Christmas, when the eternal Word (God the Son) became flesh when eternity invaded time, all men and women of faith can truly say, it was not a hollow promise from God.
Who were those who welcomed the Newborn King? There was Mary who said: Yes, in a way that could shred her dignity. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke1:38, ESV). Righteous Joseph’s lot was certainly not enviable. All whom he probably owed any explanation could not possibly believe such gibberish. He did the unthinkable – he believed the convictions that came in the night hours and went ahead and married Mary, raising this mysterious Child, Who called someone else Father! Old Simeon came with his prophecy; and so did widowed old Anna. These were people who discerned God’s timetable in the secret place.
Beyond the carols, there is another song in the air: The King is coming. Generations – old and new – hug this hope close to their hearts as the hostility of our world bites like freezing cold or the blistering heat of hell. King Jesus and His Kingdom continue to advance, wading through the thickets of violence and persecution, giving life to the dead, and giving hope to the hopeless. As the times get darker, His promises shine brighter. The King is coming (Rev. 1:7, NIV).
What stands out most about Christmas is the love of God. Those who have experienced it never get over it nor can they hold it in. The hopes and fears of all the years are resolved in the incarnation – that meeting point of God and man: Immanuel. Such love! “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …” (1 John 3:1–3, NIV). There is every reason to tell it on the mountain and everywhere that Jesus Christ, Whose story changes our stories, is born. And He is coming again, not as a baby, but as a King. Are you ready to welcome Him? You can do something about that, by deliberately inviting Him to come into your heart and take full charge. There can be no better welcome for the King of kings.